Between the early kickoff, the horrible camera angle and the fact that Crotone chose comic sans for their kit font, this match had all the makings of a disaster. The torpidity with which Roma played the first 40 minutes or so portended disaster. We’ve seen it enough times to know it by heart: give a small club like Crotone an inch and they’ll take a mile.
With Roma failing at every turn to break down Crotone’s compact defense, it seemed as though the calcio gods were ready to smile on the Giallorossi midway through the first half. For much of the first 45 minutes the refs seemed half asleep, ignoring foul after foul, even eating their whistles when Edin Dzeko was dragged down in the box. However, in the grandest of makeup calls, Roma were awarded that wayward penalty when Mohamed Salah was “fouled.”
Enter Edin Dzeko, the crusher of dreams.
2 - No player has missed more penalties than Edin Dzeko in Serie A this season (2). Panic. #CrotoneRoma— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) February 12, 2017
Just another horrific miss from Dzeko, who now leads the league in missed penalties. Why he was allowed to take this to begin with is beyond me, but god willing we’ll be spared this horror show again.
The remainder of the first half played out like our worst nightmare, Roma kept pressing ahead, only to be denied by Crotone, who were resolutely funneling their defense in front of goal, frustrating any and all comers.
Roma would find that elusive breakthrough, though, thanks to Radja Nainggolan.
Radja Nainggolan: 40th Minute
Brilliant goal Radja Nainggolan!! pic.twitter.com/bhItnaaBpR— Calcio AS Roma (@CalcioASRoma) February 12, 2017
I have no idea how Nainggolan got this one to go in, but sometimes you need a miracle, and that’s precisely what Roma received here. Head down, dribbling away from the goal and surrounded by three defenders, Nainggolan unfurled a prayer, somehow beating the Crotone keeper on the far post. Luck or not, it was a lovely bit of skill from Nainggolan, who, week by week, keeps climbing the ranks of the game’s greatest midfielders.
It was a pretty poor first half all around, one they could have easily pissed away, but Nainggolan, as always, was ever at the ready, bailing Roma out once more.
While we all hoped for a reprieve in the second half, the truth is it was much of the same; Roma knocking on the door to no avail countered by the inevitable Crotone challenge. The sharks were ultimately denied, but not before a few nervy moments from Wojciech Szczesny and the Roma defense, a point driven home further when Edin Dzeko and Federico Fazio were each denied by the woodwork seconds apart.
For much of the second half it seemed as though Roma were setting themselves up for disappointment—you just knew Crotone would level it after Aleandro Rosi, I don’t know, scored with a shot deflected off his ass—but whether by hook or by crook, the defense held firm, giving them enough time to put this one away.
Edin Dzeko: 77th Minute
This one was sublime, just a stunning bit of team play that lead a rather unremarkable goal. Watch as Emerson drives the ball towards the middle of the pitch, soaking up a few Crotone defenders in the process before shoveling the ball off to Kevin Strootman, who, in turn, occupies those same defenders before playing it over to Salah. Mo then pings it back to the point to Leandro Paredes who nearly atoned for his poor performance on the day by playing an absolutely perfect ball back to Salah, who then crossed it across the face of goal to find Dzeko waiting at the far post.
This was a textbook play, Roma manipulated time and space to create this goal, keeping Crotone off balance by shifting the point the point of attack, causing enough confusion to give Dzeko ample room for the tap-in.
That goal was really a microcosm of Roma’s entire season, wasn’t it? Moments of genius punctuated by stretches of ineptitude, all the while teetering on the edge disaster. Was there any part of you that was not thoroughly convinced Crotone was going to equalize here?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful it didn’t happen, but it is worrying that they continually put themselves in these positions, isn’t it? Was this really the same team that waxed Fiorentina, a decidedly better opponent, a few days ago? How can they go from thoroughly dominant to utterly indecisive in the span of five days?
The lesson, as always, don’t try to understand this club, you’ll only end up frustrated. Nevertheless, three points is three points and Roma remain perched in second place with another two-match week ahead, away to Villarreal on Thursday before a home match on Sunday against Torino.
This is it, we’re heading into the maddest portion of the season, so get your chakras aligned, brew some tea and do whatever you gotta do to soothe those nerves, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.